heavy snowfall on Valentine's Day would not be all that unusual
on the high plains. But in Galveston?
No one's alive to swear to it any more. We have only the musty record
books and old newspapers to attest to the fact that on Feb. 14,
1895 it snowed 15.2 inches in Galveston,
a city where even a temperature in the 40s is unusual.
Forty-five miles to the north, Houston
got even more snow -- a staggering 22 inches. And in Beaumont,
28 inches fell.
"The people, or many of them, of Houston
are shoveling snow to-day," the Galveston News reported on
February 17. "They are moving it from the sidewalks, crossings,
awnings and housetops. The sun is helping, and the two forces are
getting it out of sight very rapidly."
Even though folks were still enjoying a little impromptu sleighing,
vehicle traffic (read horse-drawn vehicle traffic) had turned the
snow in the principal streets of the Bayou City into an icy slush.
The sun was out and the snow was melting fast.
People were still amazed at how much snow had fallen so near the
Gulf of Mexico.
"No man, nor woman, nor page of history has been found that recalls
anything to compare with this in the past, in this part of the country,"
the News declared.
Snow being white and as clean as rain water, folks seemed to think
it was a good thing for Houston
"There seems to be no doubt of the sanitary benefit from the cold
spell and the permeating and purifying touch of the snow, but the
harmful effects upon vegetation for the present are conceded," the
newspaper said. In other words, below-freezing temperatures had
played havoc with the semi-tropical greenery, especially on the
The cold spell hurt more than the vegetation.
effect on cattle is said by stockmen to have been very disastrous,"
the newspaper continued. "From some members of the Southeast Texas
livestock association an estimate has been obtained which places
the loss above 25 percent."
One rancher blamed the livestock deaths on barbed wire, which in
1895 had only been around Texas for slightly longer than a decade.
will never move against the wind, rain, sleet or snow," he said,
"but drift with it as soon as it starts. They used to turn their
backs to the northers and gradually drift into the bottoms, where
they would get protection by the trees and some kind of green food
that would keep life in them till the severity of the cold passed.
Now it is different. They are driven by the cold against some wire
fence and there they stop and freeze and starve to death."
in the island city, then one of the two biggest in Texas, must have
thought another ice age had begun. Then again, only nine years before,
it also had snowed. That was the time Galveston Bay actually froze
the snowfall of 1895, Galveston
was inaccessible by train for several days as the temperature hovered
around 24 degrees. Many ships were frozen in their docks and bales
of cotton awaiting loading were covered in snow. Hack drivers got
$20 a ride to take sightseers around town. To make transportation
easier, some enterprising locals mounted their buggies and wagons
Needless to say, sightseeing was about the only form of commerce
going on with the city in the deep freeze. Most businesses shut
down, and all the schools.
"The land of the oleander awoke yesterday morning [Feb. 15] to find
itself under snow to the depth of about four inches on a level and
with snow still falling," the Austin Statesman told its readers.
"In places the drifts were over two feet deep and the oldest inhabitant
was unable to recall such a snowfall in this part of Texas."
To assess how incredible this snowfall was for Galveston,
it was nearly another century before it happened again. When snow
was officially recorded at the island's weather bureau in 1989 and
again in 1990, however, each instance was only a dusting.
The 1895 snowfall still stands as Galveston's
heaviest. The weather system that turned Galveston
white was so powerful it even covered Brownsville
with six inches of snow. Not for another 109 years did another powerful
freak snowstorm hit the Texas
coast. That happened on Christmas Eve 2004 when snow fell from
getting 13 inches.
January 18, 2017
| Texas Gulf Coast
| Old News